Barton Smock: Poet Interview

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I first met Bart years ago on MySpace--a fellow poet, a fellow buckeye--and immediately fell in love with his unique style of poeming. In fact, I chose him as my referral poet when I was published in La Fovea. Barton Smock lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and four children. His latest self-published poetry collection, mating rituals of the responsibly poor, is available at He can be found writing at and also at


Most recently, I've been reading his collection Angel Scene (also available at Lulu). Here's one of my faves:

your actual, your bad, heart, by Barton Smock

when late
in life
on a porch

you cannot hear
the sirens
going off
in the town
of your birth-

be patient
for what the hound

What are you currently up to?

I just finished my third 'actual' poetry collection, mating rituals of the responsibly poor. I've also been collecting baseball cards after a 20+ year hiatus as something logical to do with my 12- and 9-year-old sons.

Your collection Angel Scene is filled with poems told in the first person. Do you worry about truth vs. fiction in your poems?

Worry, no. I try not to pit them against each other. I think they should meet, as each has a hard time existing separately. In first person, I make the talking into a prayer, as I believe prayer whittles the truth down by way of addition, by way of creating another you're talking to, pleading with, which I think allows a more unabashed or local dialect to take hold in the voice without shackling said voice with inquiries as to who the narrator is, was, or wants to be.

I prefer the past, but feel history is sometimes overindulged. I could write 'my youngest son has a brain disorder and mitochondrial dysfunction' and it would be true and it would be sad but I don't think it would be honest until I curse for him in the presence of any maid tending the foreign house of his death.

One element of your poems that I've always enjoyed is that they often feel like little mysteries in which it's almost as important what you don't say as what you do. Is this something you consciously try to play with?

I do actively try to achieve rightness with the words I keep, as maybe later they'll take care of the ones I don't. It seems in many good, even great, poems there is a tendency to have the real last line of the poem be followed by the fake last line of the poem. I try to stop early. Also, I have always been fascinated by, and addicted to, movie previews.

As a Facebook friend, I know that you write poems daily. Do you have a set writing routine?

I write onscreen, mostly, at work. Up until recently, I worked two jobs Monday through Friday, and had to channel what I could. I rarely write at home because I'm already there. I post daily, I think, to reverse the damage.

Your best poetry moment—what is it?

I had a chance to read at a coffee shop in Annapolis, Maryland, and took it. I was invited by a Facebook friend, Cliff Lynn, who wasn't aware I lived in Ohio. I got to see my brother and some good friends who live around there, and made the trip from Ohio with my best friend. I have a voice that trails off in monotone when nervous, and the whole thing could've been disastrous. But it wasn't.

When I read, people were quiet, and listened, and were not only polite in doing so. There was a best moment in there somewhere. Otherwise, my best moment would be yesterday, when I finished my latest poem.

Angel Scene is not your first self-published collection. What do you like about the experience of self-publishing?

Control. And, I guess, safety. I started self-publishing mostly so I would have something tangible in my hand that stood for the hundreds of word documents that had been accumulating from 2006-2011. I hardly ever print anything or write in longhand. From there, it became something of an exercise, of following themes, or stepping in front of them.

Have you learned anything new about self-publishing by going through the process multiple times?

Only that it's dismissed, ha. I really can't say I've learned anything, except maybe how to save a PDF correctly to retain formatting. Because I allow Lulu to facilitate the 'publishing,' it's clean and quick and I know the result will only be infused with what I began with. It's an angel and demon kind of thing...when I'm putting together a book I feel like I'm dying, but not dead, and after...just stuck with an illness.

Finish this statement: I think poetry should ________________.

avoid, but not erase.

Who (or what) are you currently reading?

Two publications I found offhandedly, and then pursued, on Facebook: Otherwise, Soft White Ash by Kelli Allen and Hider Roser by Ben Mirov. Both works are very aware, very sane. I also just recently discovered, thank god, the poet Michael Burkard via his book Entire Dilemma, which I bought because I'd always thought dilemma was spelled dilemna.

If you could share only one piece of advice with other poets, what would it be?

Even if you have to do it with others, quote yourself.


If you're interested in learning more about Bart's poetry, please check out the links above, as well as these links:


If you're a poet or publisher interested in participating in the Poetic Asides poet interview series, it's easy enough to get the conversation started. Just send an e-mail to with the subject line: Poetic Asides Interview. Then, we'll take it from there.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer for updates on poetry, blogging, parenting, and the occasional music video.


Then, check out the essential poetry desk reference (after Poet's Market, of course): The Poetry Dictionary, by John Drury. It's filled with information about the history, the culture, and the terminology of poetry. Plus, it's a great resource for folks--like myself--who might mix up a rondel with a rondeau or a rondelet.


Don't be. Order The Poetry Dictionary today!

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